Just back from a week-long jaunt down where the pines grow tall and it’s already 100 degrees in the shade. A couple of us with the Great Bear Writing Project were down in Harmony Grove, AR giving writing workshops for local public school teachers. If you discount the scorching heat, the weather was gorgeous. If you discount the scorching heat, however, you’re not in Southern Arkansas. I swear you could feel the pine trees respirating.
Thankfully, my traveling workshop friend is just as crazy about junk shops and flea markets as I am, because we had to be crazy to scramble around old dusty shops in that heat. Air conditioning? Well, you need to visit a bank or a restaurant or – God forbid – Wal-Mart to amble around in someone else’s frosty air. The old downtown area in Camden had several junker storefronts. Like many little towns around here, though, most of the old downtown was empty. I suspect the frosty air and cheap prices at Wal-Mart for the death of our small town downtowns, but that’s a soapbox for another day. We braved the heat and learned to position ourselves in front of ancient floor fans. I couldn’t have cared less, really, because it was typewriter heaven.
That unused, baby blue Remington Quiet-Riter 11 pictured above set me back $10 and I didn’t haggle a bit. It came with a pristine roller and two unopened boxes of ribbon. It was like the typewriter had been in a time capsule until I walked in and opened the case. It’s a tad big and a bit heavy, but Lord that snappy key action. Yes indeed.
There was a superb shop going out of business and filled to the ceiling joists with more than I could investigate in a lifetime. I had a nice chat with the retired high school principal who runs the place in that way we do here in Arkansas. It’s all about family and connections and it didn’t take long for us to find people in common. He had, I believe, the best and most abundant floor and table fans of any place we visited.
His downtown shop was littered with typewriters, although a good number of them were early-model electrics – not my cup of tea. After digging under a few boxes, however, I found a few portables worth considering, and I considered this stunning aqua Remington Streamliner all the way to the cash register. The case lid’s a little wanky and won’t latch easily on one side, but this gal is in type-ready shape. Not a sticky key anywhere, and the same snap of the Quiet-Riter 11. I stole this one for $2.50.
On the way back home Steph and I made a side trip through Fordyce – a sad little town that used to be something else when lumber and oil were more plentiful. The entire downtown was one shop after the other full of old things. I found a big, hulking tan typewriter there called a Visograph that was in questionable condition. My camera batteries were dead by then, though, and I couldn’t take a picture. I wish I had, because I can’t find anything like it online. The gentlemen who ran that particular store were sweet enough to load themselves up in a pick-up to check their storage places for other typewriters. They even offered me a chair on the front porch while I waited. Right there where the man is standing on the street, on the right. It doesn’t look much different there, except the road is paved now.
You know, Bear Bryant was from Fordyce, AR. All the plaques said so.
Chivalry is not dead down near the Arkansas-Louisiana border, and typewriter hunting is still a lucrative sport. You can bet I’ll be back, although I might wait until October or so just to make sure the heat wave is over.